DSO will honor Orchestra Hall’s 100th anniversary with a hallmark concert and more.

Featured photo courtesy of Hart Hollman

Encores will resound throughout the 2019-20 season of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) as performers and community celebrate the 100th anniversary of Orchestra Hall.
The venue, known for its topnotch acoustics and diverse talent, will showcase programming from its 1919-20 season and through the years as its history also is recalled through TV and web productions, exhibitions and a book.

The foresight shown by Ossip Gabrilowitsch, who insisted on a new hall after becoming music director in 1918, will be emphasized. One hundred years ago, Gabrilowitsch, a conductor-pianist with Russian-Jewish heritage, wanted a state-of-the-art facility.

Ossip Gabrilowitsch DSO

Architect C. Howard Crane developed Orchestra Hall as part of an impressive career that includes work on the Fox Theatre, Detroit Opera House and the remodeling of Temple Beth El into the Bonstelle Theatre.

Orchestra Hall, enduring through times when the DSO moved into other venues for various reasons, will be remembered as housing the Paradise Theatre, which hosted jazz legends. This season calls attention to the music of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, among many other jazz luminaries.

In 2003, Orchestra Hall became part of the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center. Known as The Max, it was named after the late philanthropists also supportive of causes in the Jewish community.

As the orchestra enters its milestone season, it enjoys performance updates brought about with the leadership of Leonard Slatkin, who transitioned into music director laureate after a 10-year tenure. Slatkin, also of Jewish heritage, oversaw the development of the William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series and web programming.

A hallmark concert, running Oct. 4-6, restages the first 1919 program. Michael Francis will conduct Weber’s Overture to Oberon, Mozart’s Double Piano Concerto in E-flat Major with pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton, Bach’s Triple Piano Concerto in C Major with the Naughtons and pianist David Fung and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.

Violist Glenn Mellow, who is beginning his 40th season with the DSO, enthusiastically joined in as the orchestra began rehearsals in September for the commemorative programs.

“I deeply love music and can’t imagine my life without it,” says Mellow, who moved from violin to viola while attending Northern Illinois University and before earning a master’s degree from Indiana University.

A view of Orchestra Hall, May 1920 DSO

“After we played the first movement of Beethoven’s fifth symphony, I knew that it still thrills me beyond words as a benchmark piece.

“While it is exciting to be in the center of that sound, it’s been just as exciting to play other great music among people for whom I have great respect. Orchestra Hall is extraordinary, and the sounds come out clear and warm; it’s like another instrument.”

Mellow, a member of the Birmingham Temple in Farmington Hills, can recall many special concerts and looks back on one attended by his mother, who traveled from Chicago to see him on stage with Itzhak Perlman.

To recognize the many pops concerts held over the years, another commemorative program, “A Century of Pops,” will feature assistant principal cellist Abraham Feder as a soloist. The free concert, to be held Oct. 23 and requiring reservations, is on the anniversary date of Orchestra Hall’s 1919 grand opening.

The program, which also features conductor Leslie Dunner and mezzo-soprano Danielle Wright, includes selections from the first pops program and moves into later DSO performances to highlight Broadway and film favorites.

Feder, marking his first anniversary with the DSO, says, “I’ll be playing Kol Nidre by Max Bruch and Symphonic Variations by Leon Boëllman to recreate two pieces played by a solo cellist in that first year.

“The Boëllman piece is a wonderful showcase for the cello and features variations on a beautiful theme. I’m most excited about Kol Nidre. I’ve played the piece at synagogue for Yom Kippur, many times with organ, so it will be such a thrill to perform Bruch’s gorgeous orchestration with the DSO.”

Conductor/music director Ossip Gabrilowitsch with the orchestra, 1924. DSO

Feder, who holds degrees from the Curtis Institute of Music and Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, joined the orchestra after positions in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the Sarasota Orchestra. He currently holds the Dorothy and Herbert Graebner Chair with the DSO.

“My parents are coming from Chicago to hear me play in this concert,” says Feder, whose wife, harpist Cheryl Losey Feder, and son, Samuel, 5 months, enjoy listening to him practice at home.

“Having played in a lot of different halls, I understand the significance of this hall because not a lot of orchestras can be so lucky to call this kind of hall, with this kind of acoustics, their home. It is an absolute honor to be a part of the celebration.”

The six-episode series about Orchestra Hall, from Detroit Public Television, will be released online throughout the fall with the TV airing of a full special in December. The DSO has partnered with the Detroit Historical Society and Museum to develop displays. Mark Stryker, former Free Press music critic, has researched and written Destiny: 100 years of Music, Magic and Community at Orchestra Hall.

“The building of Orchestra Hall in 1919 was a moment of great civic leadership in Detroit,” says Mark Davidoff, chairman of the DSO Board of Directors and former executive director and COO of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

“Our city, including many from our Jewish community, again came together in the 1970s to save the building from the wrecking ball, ensuring that it would still be thriving today,” he said.

“As we celebrate this centennial of one of the world’s premier concert halls, where so many have felt welcomed over the years, the DSO is committed to honoring Orchestra Hall’s vital place within our community and all who have helped to secure its future.”

The presence of Ossip Gabrilowitsch, married to singer Clara Clemens (the daughter of Mark Twain), will be called upon during a Nov. 2 program that is part of the Young People’s Family Concert Series.

“The Ghost of Orchestra Hall,” for children ages 6 and older, introduces Gabrilowitsch as the friendly resident ghost of the venue through a program conducted by Chelsea Gallo and featuring actor Éva-Sarai Vesprini along with pianist Gavin George — and, of course, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

To get complete programming information for the 2019-20 season of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, go to DSO.org or call (313) 576-5111.

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Suzanne Chessler’s writing-editing career has spanned many years, and her articles have been featured in secular and religious publications across the state and around the country. There was a period of time when she maintained three regular columns in three different publications – one appearing weekly to spotlight metro volunteers, another appearing weekly to profile stage enthusiasts in community theater and a third appearing bimonthly to showcase upcoming arts programs. Besides doing general reporting, she has had continuing assignments involving health, monetary subjects and crime. Her award-winning work builds on majors in English-speech and journalism earned at Wayne State University, where instructors also were writers-editors on Detroit’s daily newspapers.